cover image Swan in Love

Swan in Love

Eve Bunting. Atheneum Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82080-9

Bunting (Smoky Night) seems to look toward Hans Christian Andersen with this oblique--if not to say weird--allegory about a swan enamored of a swan-shaped boat. Ridiculed by the other swans and the fish (""Doesn't he know she's different?""), Swan remains steadfast in his affection, knowing that ""difference makes no difference to love."" Remarks from other creatures bring on more platitudes from the lovestruck swan: love is never wrong, love isn't always wise. Then a mysterious voice ""from the sky, or the lake, or the air itself"" advises, ""Don't ever stop loving."" Though the other swans depart, Swan spends long, cold winters by the boat's side. When the voice speaks to him, announcing, ""You have found the answer,"" Swan does not understand. Readers, too, will be puzzled. The winter leaves the vessel so damaged that the owner plans to junk it, and Swan, too, has aged badly. After Swan hears ""the voice"" announce, ""Love makes magic,"" he and the boat are cryptically transported ""somewhere,"" presumably to an afterlife. Stammen's (If You Were Born a Kitten) pastels are graceful and even stately, yet there's not much she can do to break the lugubrious, unchildlike mood of the text. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)